Yemen's Last Jews Threatened and Banished

Jews in Yemen have been abruptly targeted by a local sheikh, told they were "moral destroyers," and ordered to "leave or else" - and some have. Jewish "sages" have been killed, one woman reports.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:21 PM

Only some 50 Jewish families remain in virulently anti-Israel Yemen, but after years of being largely ignored by the local population and authorities, they have now been targeted by Moslem extremists.

Some of the families, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, were confronted by masked men who told them that if they do not leave within ten days, "things will be bad for you." Other Jews were told that the Moslems don't want to see even one Jew left in the region.

Reports of Killings
In a phone call engineered by Voice of Israel Radio on Monday, a Jewish woman living in Yemen said that the Moslems "have already killed the wise men." No confirmation of this has been received from other quarters - though news from Yemen does not flow freely.

The stated explanation for the Moslem anti-Semitism, according to a letter circulated by local Sheikh Yahya Sad Al Khudhair, is that the Jews are "associated with groups and activities that primarily serve global Zionism that works actively to corrupt the people and cause them to abandon their ethical values and religion and disseminate all types of abominations... Our religion has ordered us to fight the corrupt people and expel them.”

In the Voice of Israel phone call, Masoud - a Yemenite Jew who moved to Israel six years ago and now lives in Be'er Sheva - spoke with a woman relative in Yemen. The conversation was held in Hebrew-spiced Arabic. "Kif halak?" Masoud asked in Arabic, meaning, "How are you?", and the response came in Hebrew, "Baurich Hashem," "Blessed be G-d."

The woman told Masoud, "On Friday [11 days ago], they received letters saying that whoever doesn't leave will get killed or have his children taken away or I don't know what... Now they saw these [threatening] letters and are scared; what can they do? They took everything they had, with the children, and left, and now they're in a hotel." Some 45 Jews are now reportedly in the Paris Tower Hotel in Saana.

Asked why the remaining Jews do not come to Israel, Masoud said simply that they are currently not interested in that option.

Earlier last week, according to the Yemen Observer, local authorities and tribal sheikhs held meetings to discuss the complaints from the Yemeni Jews - but they resulted only in oral reassurances for the Jews, who were told to ignore the threats and go back to their villages. "Yes, they received threats," the area's Deputy Governor said Monday about the Jews, "and they are now here in the hotel, but I can assure you that the problem will be solved today, and the Jews will return to their villages."

Yemenite Jews Converted to Islam
Dr. Moshe Nachum, of the Israeli Federation of Yemenite Jews, accuses modern Israel of having led indirectly to many thousands of Jewish converts to Islam. He told Arutz-7 that 56,000 Jews - roughly 2/3 of the Jewish population in Yemen - were brought over to Israel during Operation Magic Carpet (also known as Operation Eagles' Wings) in 1949-50, following murderous Muslim riots. A trickle of migration was allowed to continue until 1954, at which point it stopped. In 1962, another 2,300 Jews were allowed to immigrate, but many families were then left split between Israel and Yemen.

"I went to Yemen in 1977," Nachum said, "at which time I learned that there were between 25,000 and 28,000 Jews there. No one was allowed to leave until 1993, at which time a trickle began, leading to a total of 900 or 1,000 Jews coming to Israel. A few hundred now remain there."

A-7: "What happened to the 25-28,000 Jews you said were there in 1977 and before?"

Dr. Nachum: "Very simple - they converted to Islam. Because of uncaring behavior on the part of the officials here in Israel, we lost thousands of Jews... I started to actively lobby to have Israel bring the remaining Yemenite Jews to Israel, but in response, the officials released statements that there were no Jews left in Yemen."

Dr. Nachum also blames the Satmarer Hassidim for trying to bring Yemenite Jews to New York or to Europe or even to return to Yemen - "anywhere but Israel."